At work is where I do most of my review writing for Treble, so it’s that environment that ultimately shapes my opinion of the record in question. Let me tell you, the coffee cart outside the Humane Society can be a very slow, monotonous and lonely venture, thus the opportunity for cat naps (yes, pun intended) is plenty. So it’s been close to two hours since the last customer, the sun is beating down as I sit huddled in the shade, feet up on the counter, enjoying the cool sea breeze, and as I start to drift off I suddenly think, “Goddamn, I love California.” Why this sudden feeling of adoration for my overpriced adopted home whose inhabitants decided that Kindergarten Cop would make a great governor? Well, the fuzzy feelings comes from the mood I’ve been enjoying for the last few weeks, created by fellow Californians Comets On Fire and their record, Blue Cathedral.
Comets On Fire hail from the Bay Area, a most appropriate home for purveyors of modern day psychedelic music. No, I’m not calling these dudes hippies, but I’m sure they have great hookups for all their mind-expanding substantive needs. They create a brand of pure rock music that is equal parts Blue Cheer, Black Sabbath or Pink Floyd. And though there isn’t much in the way of conventional punk riffage on the album, I would venture to say that Comets On Fire are products of punk rock upbringings, as the pure force that they use to attack their music is reminiscent of the classic punk ethos.
“Blue Cathedral” kicks off with a bang, setting the stage for what these guys are all about: being loud, dirty and nasty. The guitars grind, squeal and squawk until the vocalist chimes in with unintelligible, reverb-soaked lyrics about who knows what; it’s impossible to tell. My guess is the song may have something to do with whisky, women, weed or LSD. But what do I know? Though the first track immediately brings to mind Zeppelin, “The Bee and the Cracking Egg” is by far the most seventies-ish track on the album. And this is a good thing. As much as Comets On Fire are influenced by their predecessors, they are able to show a diversity and maturity in their brand of psychedelia that their forbears couldn’t have imagined.
One of the keys to the bands ability to create their unique brand of noise is the use of the Echoplex. Member Noel Harmonson uses the device to emit a plethora of screeches and elctro-screams that sound much like someone toying with a synth filter, yet they somehow have their own distinctness that isn’t quite guitar and isn’t quite synthesizer. I’m interested to know more about how this device works, or hell, even what one looks like! The track “Whiskey River” slows down to a melodic groove based tempo that showcases what the Echoplex can really do.
A track like “Wild Whiskey” (hmmm, maybe these guys are more fueled by booze than by illegal drugs?) slows down the madness of the rest of the record, but is still heavy on the trip-out factor. I’ve found myself drifting off to this song several times while at work, only to wake up suddenly because of a dream that I couldn’t understand or remember. A great song that I’m sure is used to bring the crowd down from the ceiling midway through their live set.
Blue Cathedral: a very good record by a spectacular band playing a great modern day incarnation of psychedelic rock and roll, and then some.
Blue Cheer – Vincebus Eruptum
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II